June 10, 2019
By Stephen D. Carpenteri
Considering that the New York Department of Environmental Conservation estimates that there are more than 7,500 lakes and ponds, 70,000 miles of rivers and streams and hundreds of miles of saltwater coastline in the state, coming up with a mere seven exceptional summertime fishing opportunities seems almost laughable.
When you really get down to it, some Empire State counties have dozens of top-quality fishing destinations within their boundaries, and every management district in the state has enough open-water options to keep an angler busy for several lifetimes.
With all this in mind, it was easy enough to come up with a list of seven great fishing road trips for New York’s summertime anglers to consider in 2019. Never mind that you’ll drive right by 100 equally good waters on the way to your next proven hotspot. Just add them to the list for future years’ angling adventures.
Traveling from east to west across the great state of New York, here’s a look at seven rod-worthy hotspots that are (or should be) on every Empire State fisherman’s bucket list in 2019.
Did we say seven hotspots? On Long Island alone there are over 75 great public fishing areas to discover, not including the great striper and bluefish action in Long Island Sound. The Carmans River is a 10-mile stretch of public trout water in Brookhaven in Suffolk County. It is one of the four largest rivers on Long Island and is totally groundwater generated. The Carmans River is fresh water for the first eight miles and then becomes an estuary as it flows into Great South Bay.
The park receives approximately 2,500 stocked brown and rainbow trout annually.
All brook trout in the Carmans River are wild fish and may be caught on a catch-and-release basis only. A recent DEC survey found that nearly one-third of the trout caught in Southaven County Park were wild brook trout ranging up to 15 inches. There is a three-fish daily limit on stocked rainbows and browns.
Shore anglers can try dry flies, wet flies, streamers and small, flashy lures like Al’s Goldfish or red/white Dardevles and spinners including Mepps Gold “0”, Roostertails and Panther-Martins in black, silver or gold.
It makes sense that we should include at least one legendary, historic, world-renowned trout destination. According to the DEC, the Beaver Kill is divided into the upper and lower sections at the confluence with the Willowemoc Creek in the town of Roscoe. Both sections support wild brown trout.
The upper section of the river supports a wild brook trout population that increases moving upstream toward the headwaters. Rainbow trout are also scattered throughout the watershed as a result of both natural reproduction and non-DEC stockings in private sections of the river. The DEC annually stocks over 18,000 brown trout into the Beaver Kill.
Through the month of May blue-winged olives are the primary insects to match. A second hatch occurs in mid-July so save some flies in sizes 16 to 24 for a second round of fishing.
Blue quill mayflies start hatching in April and trout continue foraging on them through June. Little Brown stone flies are also a good choice for early-season fishing.
Local experts say that terrestrials can produce great catches as early as June. Ants, beetles, grasshoppers and similar imitations will take fish throughout the daylight hours no matter what the weather conditions. Streamers are especially productive in summer early and late in the day and when heavy rains roil the water. The lower section of the Beaver Kill is probably the most popular. There are two no-kill sections that provide excellent fly-fishing through mid-June.
NEW YORK CITY RESERVOIR BROWNS
Still in eastern New York, it would be folly to ignore the great spring and summer fishing provided by the New York City reservoir system, specifically the Croton reservoir outlets.
The West Branch Croton River is a half-mile stretch from Boyd Corners Reservoir to West Branch Reservoir in the town of Kent off state Route 301. The fishing is best in the April and May. The West Branch Reservoir Outlet flows 2.3 miles from West Branch Reservoir to Croton Falls Reservoir. It is located in the town of Carmel and is accessible from Route 6 at the upstream end and Drewville Road (county Route 36) at the downstream end. This section is not stocked but wild brown trout provide excellent fishing all season.
The Croton Falls Reservoir Outlet flows 1-mile from Croton Falls Reservoir to its confluence with the East Branch Croton River. Access is via state Routes 100 and 202 as well as the Mahopac - Croton Falls Road (county Route 34). Brown trout are stocked in April and May.
The East Branch Sodom section flows 2.4-miles from East Branch Reservoir to Diverting Reservoir in the Putnam County town of Southeast. Access is available from Route 22 and abutting side roads. Some 1,170 brown trout and 600 rainbow trout yearlings are stocked in April.
The Diverting Reservoir runs 2.5 miles from Diverting Reservoir to Muscoot Reservoir, also in Southeast. Access is via Route 22. Some 1,600 rainbow trout yearlings and 300 two-year-old (12- to 15-inch) brown trout are stocked in March plus additional stockings in April and May. Some wild browns are also present.
Parts of this section are fast flowing but easily accessible. In all sections waders and a sturdy staff are a must, especially when the rivers are running fast and high.
As is the case with most of New York trout streams, the name of the game on the Croton River complex is matching the hatch. While artificial lures are allowed, most anglers focus their efforts of dry flies, nymphs and, when the water is high or roily due to summer rains, switching to gaudy streamers that trout can easily see in the fast-moving, murky flow.
SALMON RIVER CHINOOKS/STEELHEAD
The Salmon River is another world-renowned New York water in Oswego County. The Salmon River stretches 17 miles from the Lighthouse Hill Reservoir in Altmar to Lake Ontario at Port Ontario. There are 12 miles of Public Fishing Rights along the river.
Chinook and Coho salmon begin to stage off the mouth of the Salmon River in late August. These fish range in size from 15 to 30 pounds, averaging around 18 pounds. Trolling in the estuary with spoons, dodgers/flies, cut-bait and plugs works well on staging fish. Salmon at this point are still aggressive and territorial and can be taken with fish eggs or egg-shaped lures.
The peak of the spawning run usually doesn’t occur until the latter half of September and the first half of October. Fish are generally spread throughout the river at this time. Most fish can be caught on egg sacs, egg-imitating flies or plastics and streamers. Fish that are spawning will strike gaudy streamers swung past their spawning reds.
The Salmon River also offers two strains of steelhead. Egg sacs or egg-imitating flies and plastics are the best options. Steelhead spawning usually takes place during mid-March through early April.
FINGER LAKES BASS
There are 11 glacially formed Finger Lakes in central and western New York that provide some of the best fishing in the state. Otisco, Skaneateles, Owasco, Cayuga, Seneca, Keuka, Canandaigua, Honeoye, Canadice, Hemlock and Conesus Lakes range in size from Canadice Lake (642 acres) to Seneca Lake (43,342 acres). The lakes also vary greatly in maximum depth from 30 feet in Honeoye Lake to 650 feet in Seneca Lake.
The Finger Lakes produce some of the best bass fishing in the state. Start with the shallow, weedy areas of Cayuga, Otisco, Conesus and Honeoye for largemouth action and then switch to the slightly deeper waters of Seneca, Canandaigua, Cayuga, Keuka, Skaneateles, Otisco, Owasco and Hemlock for smallmouths.
Work shoreline cover in mid-June as bass begin to spawn. Most fish will be found in shallow water very close to shore and near structure such as sunken rocks and logs, fallen trees and overhanging brush. Get close and use shallow-running plugs, spinnerbaits and spoons to irritate spawning bass into striking. Standards such as Meppsspinners, Rapalas, Rebels and similar minnow imitations will take spring bass in any Finger Lake.
As summer wears on, smallmouths and largemouths will be found in deeper water over ledges, near drop-offs and wherever deep water meets the shallows. Deep-diving crankbaits, purple jigs and RattleTraps will get the action started.
ALLEGHENY RIVER BASS
The Allegheny River flows into New York through southern Cattaraugus County for 48 miles before entering Pennsylvania again. The river corridor is generally shallow in nature, with gravel and clay banks and bottom. There are many shallow riffles throughout its length, making boat travel difficult.
Access is considered good although the majority of the river lies on private land and permission should be sought. There are numerous bridges and parallel roads throughout the river’s length, as well as public flood control dikes in Portville, Olean, Allegany and Salamanca. An unimproved small boat launch is maintained by the DEC on River Road west of the village of Allegany underneath the Interstate Route 86 Interstate bridge. Canoes can be put in at most bridges as well as small boats with electric motors.
Smallmouth bass are the most abundant gamefish species in the Allegheny. Many are in the 12- to 15-inch range with occasional bass over 18 inches.Bass are found in deep pools, near downed trees and the multitude of pilings driven into the river’s bottom. Popular baits include Mr. Twister Teenie spinnerbaits, Shad Raps and yellow, black or purple jigs.
Chautauqua Lake in western New York supports a diverse sport fishery that includes walleyes, muskellunge, largemouth bass, smallmouth bass and several species of panfish. The shallower south basin has extensive weed beds and some productive shoals. In the north basin, weed beds are found in the shallow bays. The north basin is also known for its numerous, deep, kettle holes. The north basin stratifies during summer with a thermocline occurring around 30 feet.
Chautauqua Lake ranks among the top bass lakes in New York State. The shallow, weedy areas and docks offer exceptional cover for largemouth bass. Early morning and evening are the prime times for noisy, topwater lures.
Anglers also have good luck using spinnerbaits, plastic worms, jig-and-pigs, crank baits and live bait such as crayfish and shiners. Smallmouth bass are found near deep drop-offs, points, rocky shoals, gravel bars near creek mouths and the islands in the south basin. When fishing over deeper structure, try a drop-shot rig using live crayfish or shiners.